Movie Review: Salt- A Typical Spy Thriller That Entertains Despite its Ridiculous Plot and Copied Hectic Action Sequences

Nothing seems to be more popular in the movies than the spy film or the rogue agent defying all odds stacked against them to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy. These plots fill the theaters at least once a year, whether it be the latest Bond film or the assassin exploits of the Bourne series and usually are just good enough to be entertaining. And that could possibly be the best way to describe Phillip Noyce’s Salt, which is that it simply is entertaining enough to distract you from the easily dissectible plot conveniences and damn the sciences physical stunts that are more ridiculous in retrospect than they are during the movie experience. As a thriller Noyce’s Salt doesn’t even come close to being original, though it doesn’t try to be, but it also mistakes confusing the audience for drastic character revelations and change of intention. Salt ultimately comes off as a lazy but hectic combination of the narrative from The Fugitive and the action subplots of The Bourne Ultimatum. Noyce has been known to make better thrillers, such as The Bone Collector, and even better political thrillers including Patriot Games, so Salt really isn’t anything special in comparison to his known accomplishments. Luckily Angelina Jolie provides an intriguing enough rogue agent femme fatale that we can follow through the over the top displays of action and physics defying stunts that would make even Tom Cruise blush.

The advertising campaign has been promoting this pseudo-viral marketing display of who exactly is Salt? Well the film tries to maintain that confusion, introducing her first as a CIA agent loyal to her country and then the doubt sets in that she might be a Russian spy. But not just any Russian spy, since the plot centers on a fictional old Soviet Union Cold War tactic of brainwashing Russian children into speaking and thinking like Americans and engrain them into the government infrastructure so they may destroy America on a determined day known as Day X. The plot is so outrageous that you can’t help but smirk when the final details of the brainwashing plot all come to fruition in a classic predictable way. Salt is at first determined to prove her innocence as she looks for her kidnapped husband, a German nationalist who loves spiders, and the determination would be admirable if the relationship didn’t seem so forced. As she does all this she is being chased by the CIA and an Internal Investigator played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The narrative isn’t exceptional nor are the characters who really don’t excel beyond expected government agent clichés and cartoonish Russian villains, which is a bit disappointing but sort of standard for these type of spy films. Expected car chases, leaps from incredibly dangerous heights, gun fire, and fighting sequences fill up the entire film leaving very little moments of genuine emotion or thought breaks to determine if what you’re watching is worth the money or time, making a fast paced experience that is entertaining but ultimately unfulfilling. Most of the ending doesn’t make a bit of sense, considering that the president could reveal the identity of the actual villain, but again it really isn’t a film that sets out to be a pitch perfect storyline.

Paul Greengrass, the director of the lesser quality segments of the Bourne Series (Ultimatum and Supremacy), should be blamed for the horrible action techniques he has conned the world into believing are good qualities to have in an action film. Shaky cameras that seem as though they’ve been thrown into the action rather than strategically placed may seem chaotic at first but they are a drain on the mind when excessively used. The steady camera in Salt is about as steady as an earthquake and while it works occasionally for the more intimate fighting sequences, it just gets blurry and unnecessary in many of the other segments. This is just another way to distract you in how the image is presented than focusing on what is in the image, which most films are dependent on because that is where layering of images and blocking can accentuate what you are trying to focus on. Salt, as each action sequence reveals itself in technique, becomes more and more of a femme fatale/feminist version of the Bourne films that acts as a replication rather than a unique twist on the borrowed plot structure. The action is well executed, though that is expected with an experienced director, though it certainly isn’t anything you haven’t seen before.

Angelina Jolie has proven that she can be a leading action star in such claims to fame as the comic adaptation of Lara Croft as well as the assassin wife and husband duo film Mr. and Mrs. Smith. She doesn’t choose the best material to work with but she certainly knows what sorts of films entertain audiences today and uses her looks and toughness to her advantage. In Noyce’s Salt, Jolie is just like the script: good enough. She is convincing to the point of even confusing the audience at its intended thriller moments and even tries to have some genuine emotion when it comes to her husband. However, the rest of the cast varies from being good, mediocre and a bit over the top. Chiwetel Ejiofor is always a delight to watch on the screen but isn’t really given a substantial amount to do in this film. The same goes for Liev Schrieber who seems to be type-casted these days, always fitting the role that is expected of him rather than challenging him with a more difficult range. That’s really the main criticism of Salt and that it just could have been an all around better film if they had put more time into the story, the character creation, the action sequences, and even the style. Everything just seems copied and tiresome when all is said and done, though this is usually during the retrospective period after the film has come to its ridiculous conclusion.

Salt can inevitably be described as a run of the mill political thriller that doesn’t really surprise you with its vast twists and turns. Instead it turns into a carbon copy of the Bourne films, but this time with a female lead that the studio is hoping has enough toughness and sex appeal to draw in the crowds. Everyone knows that this has all been done before and better, but the continuous action and claustrophobic atmosphere will keep you distracted from realizing it till the experience is well and done with. Phillip Noyce has been known to be at the helm of better work, including Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games, which were political thrillers that had a purpose. Salt becomes rather laughable due to its ludicrous dependency on chaotic action and unnecessary plot twists that can be seen a mile away. The political thriller needs to adopt more of The Conversation or The Parallax View before they begin depending on just the simple Bourne series or Mission: Impossible.

Grade: C+

3 Responses to “Movie Review: Salt- A Typical Spy Thriller That Entertains Despite its Ridiculous Plot and Copied Hectic Action Sequences”
  1. Great review. We’d love to cross-post it (with proper credit), if you’ll allow us. Please shoot me an email at infoATfeministreviewDOTorg

  2. M3nt1c1d3 says:

    Hi , I must say, your article is interesting , yet, I think I should try find out more about the subject….
    I’ll keep an eye on u’r blog.

  3. 5 star says:

    very interesting review, thank you.
    I watched this movie at view months ago, it’s like what you say.

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